Heads and Tales of Cold Steel (Bits-Pieces of the 2011 fall-run)

Trinity canyon
Canyon Paradise- Solitude.

It has been a while since our last post and to those who read our currents I haven’t forgot about you. The past seven weeks of guiding have been nothing short of challenging as I have forgotten just about everything at one time or another. No brain farts just age, absent minded and not enough hours in a day to getter all done. Instead of writing some redundant B.S. we really care about what we convey to you and hope you realize it is much more than glorified daily client catch tallies and what rock to stand on reports. No offence number crunchers.

Trinity Salmon
Jackie ain’t no lady.

An unexpected banner year for Klamath-Trinity River Chinook salmon surprised everyone. The runs supported bountiful numbers of exceptionally large adults, many exceeding 30 lbs., and countless numbers of jacks. The run is documented as the best in a decade and fish numbers/qualities returning shed strong promise for another good return 2012. Many thought banner salmon returns translates banner steelhead returns, seems logical although Ma Nature doesn’t work that way. At least at this point in time of the steelhead runs it appears the Trinity is supporting a good average return with strong numbers of early season natives that have been described as hotter than a two pecker goat in a forest fire with a BVT. Beautiful Indian summer weather and river conditions formulated a solid early season grab for jumbo half-pounders, adult Steelies and jack Chinook. Find a west bank shadow and skate’em up. The calm before the storm or like an old auto that runs great before it blows; both Kit and I knew it was suspiciously too good. Unseasonably cold weather and rains arrived and blew out the river, scattering fish throughout the entire system, erased any predictable patterns and released the whoopee air out of our balloon.

Paw prints
Close encounter of others fishing

2011 marks my 29th year of guiding the Trinity River and as already mentioned the past seven weeks have been nothing short of challenging and never a dull moment. Whether it is the unpredictable and unseasonably wet and wild weather influencing conditions, simply out of rhythm, age or a combination of all the above I openly admit I have entertained myself with the following forgotten items on various guide trips this fall. Spare rod (thank God nobody broke a rod that day), Tippit material (used 0X all day fortunately it didn’t matter), my watch (followed shadows and the sun), Socks (lucky water temps were 62- dealt with clammy feet), Fleece pants (coldest day of the yr. and used up all the hot h20 that evening in the shower), hot lunch (bragged about Pat’s hot chili yet pulled it off with smoked salmon/garden goods/Garlic cheese bread/bevs), Cash for gas(drove my commute back on fumes-although admit it was an “Acolie Squeezer”). Grand prize, at the end of the day, approaching my vehicle we all noticed I left the driver’s side window down all day. Or did I? At first it appeared someone broke the front windshield however it turned out to be severely splattered bird shit (window was down, everything else locked–cell phone, $150 shades etc. still sitting on the dash). Please bear with me but as the old saying goes— its better to be lucky than good.

Trinity scenery
Remove any blinders-Fall beauty

One thing I have not forgotten is just how special fall steelheading really is. The colorful beauty of the autumn landscape, the forever changing pulse of rivers, their fickle personalities and complex compositions, multiple over lapping anadromous fish runs( fresh run incoming adults and at the same time out-migrants of various origins drifting down river, complimenting the commutes are in stream/tributary spawning spring-summer stocks), the birds and restless wildlife, hidden intensity levels and yet almost bizarre methods of angling, the heavy vibe of blind faith commitment, confidence and devoted determination , stepping into a rested favorite run knowing not if but rather when, rekindled friendships and camaraderie, fishing camps and fireside meals flowing with favorite bevs while discussing and reminiscing the day encounters, Oh Yeah, mystic of a unique highly praised and desired west coast treasure and blast of energy capable of tearing into the core of your backing at the blink of an eye; leaving the victims heart in his throat, hands shaking and yearning for more. Fall steelheading is the main event and grand finale before winter’s harsh chilling grip. To miss it is a sin. Besides, ask yourself how many more steelhead seasons will you be able to enjoy?

Fall Steelheading
Eager fall perfection.

I recently ran into a couple fly fishing friends on the lower river, both veteran steelheaders that would use any excuse in the book to chase steel. I was surprised to see them, especially Bob who recently turned 80. The last time I saw him he appeared in poor health and I thought to myself his days on the water are numbered. Surprisingly enough he was wet- wading, could no longer suit up, and by his own admittance embarrassed holding a spinning rod in hand yet wearing a smile. Tom, who also recently turned 71, was suited up in waders, toting his Spey rod and sporting a heavily taped hand- finger cast on his left hand. I inquired and he mentioned he fell into the blackberries and severely cut open his finger. His heart medication, blood thinners, enhanced an uncontrolled bleeding and Bob had to take him to the emergency room. We caught up over a couple cold beers and laughs. Driving back home that evening I couldn’t help but reflect back on my encounter with my friends. There they were, aged steelhead vets, handicapped and wounded yet still feeling it and doing whatever they could to get one more grab or solid hook up. I laughed out loud to myself and uncontrollably shed a few tears as I thought if that isn’t steelheading I don’t know what is. Share the stoke and Go get’em!!!

Lower Trinity
A true steelheader for a true steelheader